A track by track breakdown of a new electronic album which explores place and memory and what it is to remember but also to forget
Under the alias Heavy Cloud, I create sounds inspired by landscapes and memories. My latest album, An Act of Forgetting, released on Bandcamp in September 2021, is an exploration of place and memory and what it is to remember but also to forget.
Across drones, electronics, text-to-speech and sound collage, the album continues my thematic ‘memory series’, alongside Constant Nostalgia (2020), Memory Drift and Weight of Shadow (2021). At its core, An Act of Forgetting is about the power of memory and how our memories can affect our present.
I was inspired by Maribel Mora Llorens, who proposed a theory in her 2016 thesis Memory + Architecture | The Act of Forgetting:
“to forget is an active, not an act of erasing memories, by transforming them by removing the emotional responses that are produced by our recollection of these memories.”
I often enjoy reading musicians and artists reflect upon their process in interviews, so I thought I would attempt a track-by-track breakdown in order to talk more about the themes of An Act of Forgetting, in case it is of any interest to others.
It is said that our perception of time slows down when we are afraid and gets faster as we grow older. It is often when we are suffering through tougher times that feelings of nostalgia increases, as we long to slow down time and savour happier memories again. Slow Motion is based around gradually evolving synth loops and a choral recording. Perhaps it is a moment where reality is slowing down, allowing memories to flood the system.
Blue Milk Memory
The title for Blue Milk Memory links back to when I first listened to the Stereolab song Blue Milk from their 1999 album Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night. Even more specifically than this, it recalls the time I read about Deerhunter and Atlas Sound’s Bradford Cox passionately talking about his love for Blue Milk. So my Blue Milk Memory is borrowed nostalgia a couple of places removed from its origin. This track probably began as an attempt at creating a Stereolab/Atlas Sound hybrid instrumental – sparse, hypnotic through repetition – but built around ringtones, pulses and alien radio chatter it became something else; an attempt to dial back into the past to recall a specific memory.
“One’s window that mingles and joins the sentiments
Running towards the sea,
Gives you an end and a beginning.”
– Stereolab, Blue Milk
It all ties into the power of the song. Its magic to transport us back to a specific moment in time in just a few seconds.
As my attempt at memory recall in Blue Milk Memory hangs up, Screens, boots up. At the heart of this one is a relentless barrage of text-to-speech vocals I wrote several years ago – pre-pandemic. The words no longer feel like my own, but they do still feel pretty relevant for today – the voice could stand in for anyone of us. Interweaving synth loops make a return alongside split second snippets of TV I recorded late one evening as I was channel-hopping during the first UK lockdown. We are being bombarded with constant content from all angles – is it any wonder sometimes we might think that we can no longer hear our own selves think? What becomes part of our personal memory or the collective consciousness? In way ways, Screens is a descendant of the track Future World Sprawl from my Memory Drift album released on the Mailbox label in February 2021.
Walking on cracks. Eyes locked to screens. How much do we notice?
Garden of Sorrows
After the simulated clutter and chaos of Screens, we reach the Garden of Sorrows. We can view it as an imagined place to get away from the noise of the world; leaving us to ponder and reflect. There is another shift in sound to contrast what has come before: mangled loops, aching drones, melancholic melodies and low end bass and hiss. This could be the beginning of trying to let go of any painful experiences inside our thought garden – a place where we are no longer held captive by certain memories.
The last track on Side A, Letting Go, tries to speak for itself in its tone. We’re still seeking shade in the Garden of Sorrows. Contemplating. We’re trying to let go of everything from the past that has done us harm or ill will. Something of a purge; perhaps the trees within the garden are helping to convert our ‘garmonbozia’ into something more peaceful.
Side B begins with Displaced Memories, a track that was born after reading about displacement, memory and identity, particularly for a longing for home. In psychology, displacement seeks to explain forgetting, especially in short-term memory. As experienced in Screens, we are constantly bombarded with news coverage and content of many different shades every day that it is understandable if tomorrows happenings instantly displace yesterdays in the age of content on demand. Even with music it could be said that a release is now considered old in some quarters only a few weeks after its release. The dirge-like loop throughout the track represents the relentlessness, as one set of memories are replaced by others (and others (and others)). Although gradual shards of melody and sound do begin to weave into the layers, hinting at a possible reawakening.
Time Out of Time
From now on, the album becomes even more fragmented through a collage of field recordings and parts of unreleased songs of mine over the last decade. Time Out of Time tries to show how time as a notion has now lost its meaning. It is no longer trusted to track time accurately. The past and present weave in and out of each other through voices and domestic sounds. Life and death circle each other. Light and shadow chase each other’s tails.
As the first part of a 3-song suite, Time Out of Time goes into Jamais vu – a French borrowing for ‘never seen’. This is the phenomenon of experiencing a situation that you recognise, but yet it still seems novel and unfamiliar – the opposite feeling of déjà vu. The dissociation that has been growing throughout the album comes to its zenith through a warped collage of memories – bells, birds, voices and environments – clashing and colliding. A bricolage of flashbacks – one memory triggering another. The wheels for the act of forgetting are now fully in motion.
Deja vu continues the short suite, and despite all what has preceded, there is still a familiar feeling of ‘we’ve been here before’. Every memory is a part of what makes us until we choose to let it go.
A Conscious Forgetting
After a short coda, the final track of the album, A Conscious Forgetting, begins. This track is propelled by a piano loop which rides along a soundscape sculptured from a Lester Bangs interview, found sounds and environmental recordings. The track climaxes when a lot of the clutter and detritus falls away, leaving just the piano, and hopefully, a greater sense of clarity and foresight. Throughout the course of the album, and after taking part in this act of forgetting, we are now in a better place to embrace the future. The track ends with the piano gently entangling with a choral loop (echoing the choir motif in Slow Motion) before bells ring out, which traditionally symbolise beginnings and endings, a call to order, or even a command or a warning – it is for you to decide.
An Act of Forgetting is released on 2 September and available on Heavy Cloud’s Bandcamp page to pre-order.
As well as being a digital download, there are a very limited number of CDs available which include a collection of bespoke items: a booklet featuring tracklisting, liner notes and album themed original collage artwork; 2x double-sided matte art cards with album artwork and tracklist; nostalgia themed collection of prints, letters, newspaper and book extracts; 3x original vintage (1930s-60s) photographs of people and place memories; ‘Screens’ original collage retro print; typed and signed lyric sheet for ‘Screens’; ‘Garden of Sorrows’ original acrylic flowers print; album art stickers; plus, a hand-numbered contents card. [Update: these are now sold out]